Biology, or the study of life and living things, is a common course of study in college. In a college biology course, you will build on what you learned in biology in high school and expand on it, helping you see how biology might become a career path for you.
One of the shared experiences amongst college biology students is the intro course and its associated lab. College biology labs are a great time to get hands-on experiences to cement the things you are learning in class, but they take a lot of extra time and can take a lot of energy. We’ll be discussing what you should expect from your college biology lab here.
What is College Biology Like?
College biology is an incredibly varied field ranging from the intro classes you’ll take during your first year of college to the senior seminars you will complete during your final year in college. In most schools, the biology department is quite large and is often divided up into a selection of smaller categories.
While students can often choose to major in many of these smaller categories, such as molecular biology, ecology, or physiology, they will all likely have to take the same first class. Most schools have an intro biology course that all potential biology majors have to take before they can start taking any other biology course.
Is College Biology Easy or Hard?
College biology is a challenging major for multiple reasons to classify as either easy or hard. First, each school structures its biology department completely differently, meaning that students at different schools will likely have completely different experiences.
The next thing to note about college biology is that biology is a reasonably standardized major, especially in the beginning. Every college will want you to be able to understand a little bit about both ecology and microbiology before you start your more specialized courses. It doesn’t matter what school you go to, and there is a lot of information to get through in the intro courses to help build a solid foundation for you to work with later.
Overall, college biology is not known to be the most demanding major out there, but it is known to be quite a time-intensive major, especially during your first few years at college. This is mainly because of the intro courses you will have to take and the labs that are associated with those classes. For these reasons, most people would consider college biology to be a pretty middle-of-the-road major in terms of difficulty, but, as with most science majors, you should expect them to be incredibly time-consuming.
What are the Hardest Classes as a Biology Major?
The hardest classes as a biology major will depend on the school that you go to, but most students will say one of two classes, either the intro course or the final course they take. Which one is harder for you will depend on how the biology department in your school is structured. Here are some of the reasons why people might find these courses to be the hardest.
Intro course: Many colleges utilize their intro courses as what is called a weed-out course. A weed-out course means that their intro courses are likely extensive lecture-style courses with way more students than any other class you will take. These courses are designed to be intense and will require you to learn a lot of information.
The course will probably feel like you are covering more information than any other biology course you will take. Although your professors might not say it outright, these courses aim to weed out the students who are not ready for the upper-level courses. The idea is that if the department can use their intro course to select the students that they think are ready for their department, they will have a smaller cohort of students, all of whom have an excellent foundation to build on in later courses.
Since these courses are designed to figure out who is ready to move on, the intro courses are often considered the most challenging college biology course they take. Even if a course, later on, covers more in-depth information, many students find the sheer amount of information covered in the intro course to be overwhelming. This course also tends to be tricky because it is likely one of the first courses you will take at college, meaning you won’t be used to it quite yet.
Final course: Most schools will have some sort of final course, either a senior seminar, a capstone, or a thesis, that their students must complete in order to graduate. According to many students, this is the hardest college biology course they take.
This course makes sense as the most demanding course since it is the final course you will take. It typically involves more hands-on research, lots of extra time reading and writing papers, and either a massive paper, a presentation, or both at the end of the course. Since this course is expected to be challenging, many students are mentally prepared for the challenges and don’t find it as overwhelming as their intro course, but some students do.
5 Experiences to Expect in a College Biology Lab
There are a lot of things you’ll experience in your college biology lab, and while it will vary from school to school and even from professor to professor, there are some standard things you can expect. There are lots of classic college biology lab experiments, so this is by no means a comprehensive list. This is only the start of what you might expect from your college biology lab:
1. Learning the basics for your school
From learning where everything goes in your lab to the protocols and procedures that your school uses in the lab, intro biology labs are packed to the brim with the basics of everything lab related.
You may start your year off by taking an in-depth tour of your lab, so you know where everything is when you are working. You will likely spend a while learning how to work all the balances and other equipment that you will be expected to use. You will learn how to dispose of your experiments when you are done. You will learn how to properly take care of the lab and the materials in it. All of this boring stuff has to be done at the start.
2. Cell biology experiments
Pretty much every intro biology lab will do some sort of basic cell biology experiment. This is designed to give you a taste of what cell biology work is like and help you decide if that is a specialization you wish to pursue. These experiments will provide you with the tools you need to perform advanced biology experiments later on.
3. Plant-based experiments
Plants and their study is another central area of concentration that you will likely study in your intro biology lab. You may grow plants or just study the internal structures of plants, but it is designed to give you a glimpse into what you could expect from studying plants in college.
4. Ecology experiments
Ecology is the other major specialization that you might choose to study in college. Ecology labs tend to focus more on the big picture and less on the tiny details. They may involve field trips or experiences that take place outside of the main room of your lab. Again, the ecology experiments you do in your intro lab will help you choose if you want to pursue ecology later.
5. Lots of lab reports
Lab reports are a vital part of any scientific field and are one of the few shared experiences in biology across all schools. Get ready to write a lot of them! You should expect to write lots of lab reports during your intro biology lab and all other labs you will take after it.
Wrapping Things Up: 5 Things You’ll Experience in Your College Biology Lab
College biology labs are an extraordinary place where every biology student will have both fond and not-so-fond memories. From understanding the basics of many branches of biology to learning how to write lab reports, college biology labs are packed with all sorts of experiments and information. There are tons of things you learn in biology, but what you experience in the lab is really what sets college biology apart from high school biology.